There is a recent controversy in the United States regarding whether the Federal government can compel employers, including religious employers, to pay for contraception. Although this may not be objectionable to most religious Jews, who do not consider contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Catholics (who do consider it to be abortion) have objected to the new law rather vociferously.

What if some future policy would require employers to pay for actual abortions, by whatever definition would be considered as prohibited halachically?

How would a religious Jewish employer be required, by Jewish law, to respond to such a law? Is it permissible to subsidize someone else's transgression of such a grave prohibition? If such a law were to come into effect, would a Jewish school be required to either violate the law or shut down the school?

  • 4
    It's not clear that halacha considers abortion to be murder. In a few cases, (i.e. to save the life of the mother), abortion is required. In other cases, (i.e. the baby will be born with Tay-Sachs, lo aleinu) abortion may be permitted. In other, more general cases, abortion might be forbidden, but not quite the same thing as murder. Every potential abortion case is highly individualized, and for this reason, one cannot make a blanket statement on the status of abortion in halacha. – user1095 Feb 15 '12 at 15:42
  • 2
    @TalFishman you wrote in the quesiton, "Is it permissible to pay for what is halachically considered murder?" That is a presupposition of your question, and I am challenging it. – user1095 Feb 15 '12 at 16:12
  • 1
    @TalFishman I knew what the point of the question was. Asking a question about paying for murder will get a different answer than asking about paying for something that's assur, but not murder. The "givens" in a question really do make a difference. – user1095 Feb 15 '12 at 17:05
  • 3
    @Will, I seem to recall that abortion does count as killing as a mitzvas b'ne Noach (though does not count as killing as a mitzva for Jews); since most abortionists are gentiles, the original wording may well be valid. (See also Rambam, M'lachim 9:4.) – msh210 Feb 15 '12 at 17:11
  • 4
    Barry points out an important distinction: The policy at issue does not require employers to pay for any particular medical care; it requires them to subsidize insurance that, in turn, is obligated to cover various types of care. It'd probably be worth reflecting this distinction in the question. – Isaac Moses Feb 15 '12 at 17:54

An employer is paying the premiums on an employee's insurance policy, which will then pay the medical expenses incurred by the employee committing a halachically-unacceptable act. With respect to "Lifnei Iver" or "placing a stumbling block before the blind," there are multiple mitigating factors:

  1. The prohibited act may never happen. The employee may never need to get an abortion.
  2. Even if the insurance policy didn't cover it, the employee may have paid for the abortion herself (see A"Z 6b re: "two sides of the river").
  3. If the employer wouldn't pay for the premiums, the employee can still obtain employment by another employer who will pay for it.
  4. It is "lifnei dLifnei," or it is causing one to stumble by causing another to stumble. This is not prohibited by Lifnei Iver (see A"Z 14a, and Tos. A"Z 15b).

With respect to "mesaya" or "facilitating sin", consider the payment of wages themselves. Say the employer knows that the employee will use the money for illicit acts. May the employer pay her wages? It doesn't seem logical that this should be considered "facilitating sin". It is too indirect.

  • 2
    Barry, I think you hit the nail on the head here. From a strict halachic perspective of "sin facilitation", we have more than ample wiggle room. There may still be Jews opposed on principle because of precedent on First Ammendment interpretation, but that's way, way beyond a technical halachic concern. – Shalom Feb 15 '12 at 17:54
  • 1
    Good points, all of them, but the employer may be paying more directly for these abortions than you realize. First off, the premiums will rise immediately once abortion is covered, so the employer is paying directly for the potential provision of a prohibited service. Second, many employer schemes base one year's premiums on the previous year's costs, so that higher costs in one year due to coverage of abortions feeds directly into the employer's premiums the following year. – Tal Fishman Feb 15 '12 at 18:20
  • @Shalom, Jews would obviously be opposed to such a law even if they weren't required to shut down to avoid paying for it. From a Jewish perspective, one won't want to be forced to support something forbidden, because its wrong, even if technically not a "lifnei iver". – Ariel K Feb 15 '12 at 18:41
  • 1
    @ArielK, The previous version of this question had a title that seemed to be about public policy, but questions in the body about specific reactions by employers. I've edited the title to match the body. Given that, Barry's approach regarding what would be permitted or prohibited in the context of the hypothetical law in consideration is to the point. – Isaac Moses Feb 15 '12 at 19:15
  • 2
    +1. As always, sources for your specific claims (e.g., that lifne iver is mitigated when the anticipated event may never happen, that lifne d'lifne is permitted, and that the sinner can sin by other means if not thus assisted) would be most valuable. – msh210 Feb 15 '12 at 19:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .